Author/Illustrator: Grahame Baker-Smith

A boy and his father live on a rocky island where brilliant red poppies blossom and seagulls constantly pull the eyes to the sky. At least, they pull the father’s eyes. The boy watches as his father pursues his dream–or should we say obsession–of flying, spending hours building one beautiful but failing contraption after another. Sometimes, it seems his father has forgotten the boy is even around, his mind is so caught up in the clouds. But other times, they have so much fun together; truly they love each other very much. Still, it seems the sky always pulls his father back. . . . And although his father never actually realizes his dream, the boy himself eventually is caught by the same passion. Perhaps he will be the one to actually reach the sky.

FArTHER (yes, the capitalization is intentional; think about it) is a beautiful, unusual picture book–one that spans age boundaries effortlessly. The art is breathtaking, full of color, detail, texture, and character–I would describe it almost as a neo-Baroque sort of style (it reminds me vaguely of CLAMP’s Clover). And the story itself is poignant, bittersweet, and lovely. You can feel both the wonder of the shared dream and the vague dissatisfaction and sorrow of being left out both welling up from the depths of the boy’s being, even though he doesn’t say anything particularly clearly. The prose is light, with the ethereal lack of definition that allows good children’s books to deal with truly deep matters yet still be appropriate for children. As such, I really think FArTHER is a captivating picture book/short story for all ages.


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